NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman began his weekly radio show by addressing the bankruptcy hearing regarding the Phoenix Coyotes franchise that was held Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix, saying the League is prepared to defend its rules and policies in court.
"The two most important issues for any sports league are, who owns its franchises and where its clubs are located," he said. "The NHL, like the other sports leagues, has clear rules, policies and procedures to deal with those two issues. The issue in Phoenix deals simply with who owns and controls the franchise and where the franchise will be located."
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told NHL.com that Thursday's hearing was "exclusively about scheduling," and that the next hearing date is May 19. The NHL and the other parties will be required to file certain documents by May 13 and 15 in advance of the hearing.
"The threshold issue is who is in control [of the Coyotes franchise], whether it is Mr. (Jerry) Moyes or the NHL," said Daly.
Daly told Canadian Press Thursday that Moyes had previously signed documents giving control of the team to the league, and that the documents specifically prohibit Moyes from taking the franchise into bankruptcy.
A bankruptcy petition related to the Coyotes was filed by Moyes Tuesday. Bettman said he was "actually on my way to a meeting with Mr. Moyes (Tuesday) in Phoenix to go over the offers that we had for the club when I was advised of the bankruptcy petition." Bettman said at a public forum Wednesday the petition was filed "not because creditors were lurking and seeking redress for not being paid," but because there was an offer to buy the franchise and move it to southern Ontario, apparently, from Jim Balsillie, co-CEO, Research In Motion, which makes the Blackberry.
"As Commissioner of the NHL, my role is to enforce the league rules, policies and procedures," said Bettman on his weekly "The NHL Hour on Sirius XM Radio" show (4 p.m. ET, Thursdays, streamed on NHL.com). "For the good of the clubs, the health of the League, and the support of our fans, I will do the right thing and apply the rules as they have always been applied."
Daly said the May 19 hearing could result in a ruling on control that day or the judge might require additional time to decide the hearing's outcome. Daly added an encouraging note for Coyotes fans, noting the League "has every expectation the Phoenix Coyotes will play the 2009-2010 season in Glendale (Ariz.)."
"In the final analysis, what we do is all about, really, our fans," Bettman said on "The NHL Hour." "Our fans play an essential role in all the decisions that we make. You support our clubs and we have a commitment to you. We don't run out on our fans when issues arise with our clubs. We fix the problems. Our track record of fixing clubs is pretty strong. The Pittsburgh Penguins are a good example of this and now they are thriving. Over the years, there have been others, in Buffalo, Ottawa and at least two other Canadian teams.
"We owe it to our fans and the game to enforce the rules and follow our processes and our procedures. It's really no more complicated than that. So, while my guess is people are going to want to talk about it, I'm going to have to be somewhat circumspect with things that are before the court."